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A law preventing some families from being paid while caring for their disabled loved ones is to be scrutinised by the United Nations, as part of its periodic review of New Zealand.
The UN today released its list of Issues relating to the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which the Government is required to report back on.
The UN’ disability committee will then assess New Zealand’s progress on implementing the convention, and highlight areas of concern.
It is the second time New Zealand has been subject to the process, after it ratified the convention in 2008.
The list asks generally about issues such as discrimination, accessibility, access to justice, health and education.
However, it also asks more specifically about some areas of policy, including, for the second time, about New Zealand’s Funded Family Care Policy and amendment Part 4A of the New Zealand Public Health and Disability Act 2000.
Families caring for disabled whanau this month made a plea to the Government to review that policy and overturn the law which underpins it, saying it is discriminatory and unfair.
Legislation enabling the policy, which excludes spouses and parents with younger children from payment, and limits family carers to the minimum wage, was rushed through under urgency by former Health Minister Tony Ryall in 2013.
Outrage ensued not only at the policy, but at the part of the legislation that barred legal challenges by saying families could not take discrimination claims against it to court.
In its pre-election manifesto, Labour said it would repeal the legislation - Part 4A of the NZ Public Health and Disability Act 2000 - and that it would ensure all family caregivers could “provide and be paid for assessed care for their disabled adult family member”.
New Health Minister David Clark said he has asked for advice on the issue. The Ministry of Health said Funded Family Care was under review, along with the rest of the disability support system, which it wants to make easier to access.
Other policies to be scrutinised during the UN process include whether ACC complies with the convention; the use of seclusion in schools; and abuse in state care.
The list has asked for “measures taken to prevent abuse in State care institutions, respond to complaints and provide redress for victims of historic abuse in State care institutions, following the conclusions and recommendations in the Judge Henwood report (2015) and the Donald Beasley Institute’s report (2017)”.
“Please also inform about criminal investigations carried out in relation to allegations of ill treatment and torture in care institutions, including health care facilities,” it said.
The Government earlier this year announced an inquiry into state care. Criminal investigations into allegations of ill care in institutions have been limited, due to issues about evidence.
It also asked for a report back on measures to enforce the amendment to the Education Act 1999 passed in 2017, prohibiting physical restraint and seclusion of children with disabilities in schools.
There were two “issues” relating to ACC, including around whether adequate legal aid was available, and to ensure that this mechanism has a human-rights-based approach.
More generally, the committee has asked about how New Zealand discriminates based on cause of disability, with the ACC system sitting parallel to wider health and disability services in a way that many say is inconsistent with the Convention.
It also asked about the steps taken to collect data related to the prevalence of young people with psychosocial and/or intellectual disabilities in the juvenile justice system; measures taken to reduce the denial of residency in New Zealand on the grounds of impairment; and the process towards the inclusion of the disability-related questions in the context of the 2018 Census, all which have been contentious issues in the past.
The Government is required to provide a written response to the List of Issues before a delegation attends an examination, where they are interviewed in person by the committee.